The Center for Law, Brain & Behavior puts the most accurate and actionable neuroscience in the hands of judges, lawyers, policymakers and journalists—people who shape the standards and practices of our legal system and affect its impact on people’s lives. We work to make the legal system more effective and more just for all those affected by the law.

Life Sentences for Children?: The Neuroscientific Basis for Limitations on Harsh Sentencing

October 27, 2022, 12:00 PM

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Online viewing

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this panel discussion will be held virtually, as an online webinar. To ensure that you will receive access to the livestream and be kept up to date on any changes to the event, register now. We will send out a link to the livestream of the event to all registrants the day before and day of the event. Last registration is 11:30am on the day of the event. 

Event Description

Neuroscience is playing a key role in legal decisions about children and young adults serving life sentences. The US Supreme Court relied upon research on adolescent brain development to bar execution and limit sentences of Life Without Possibility of Parole for crimes committed under age 18. However, the U.S. Supreme Court case Jones v. Mississippi (2021) shifted the battleground from federal constitutional protections to protections afforded by state constitutions—with mixed results to date. This panel examines the latest neuroscience in the context of emerging case law.


  • Introduction: Carmel Shachar, Executive Director, Petrie-Flom Center
  • Leah Somerville, Professor of Psychology and Director, Affective Neuroscience and Development Laboratory, Harvard University
  • Stephanie Tabashneck, PsyD, JD, Senior Fellow in Law and Applied Neuroscience, CLBB and the Petrie-Flom Center

This event is part of the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience, a collaboration between the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School.